Luma Lab held a “week of welcome” in celebration of the opening of IN3 (Inclusive Innovation Incubator) which began Monday, April 17 and ended Sunday, April 23. Luma Lab is the educational brand of Clearly Innovative, a web and mobile development firm based in D.C.
IN3 is a partnership between Clearly Innovative, Howard University, and the mayor’s office. When D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser’s office along with Howard University put out a request for proposal for an operator of Technology Innovation HUB, Clearly Innovative responded to the request and was selected.
Aaron K. Saunders, D.C. native and owner of Clearly Innovative, says that the idea began to develop in 2012 when the company held a youth hackathon, which is an event in which people meet to engage in computer programming. Through the event he noticed what he thought to be an issue.
“We recognized that there was a problem in the community that there’s no place for kids to go who are excited about technology,” Saunders says. This realization caused the company to search for a solution.
Clearly Innovative began their solution with teaching an entrepreneurship and technology class at Howard University Middle School for Math and Science, located on Howard’s campus, which lasted for two years.
Soon, the company decided that they would run a summer camp, which Saunders describes as being beneficial, “Then we got a little bit of press and we got some funding and we expanded our summer camp,” Saunders said.
In 2015, Clearly Innovative won a $100,000 Mission Mainstreet grant from Chase Bank to expand youth programming to focus on workforce development.
“When we won the $100,000 Mainstreet grant around our education program, we said we wanted to find some space,” Saunders added.
It was around the same timeframe that Clearly Innovative won the Mainstreet grant, that Howard University and the mayor’s office released the request for proposal.
“So we decided to respond to this opportunity, instead of trying to go out on our own because we figured that D.C. is not that big and if the mayor was behind one, and we were already trying to do our own, we would have success,” Saunders said as he describes the motivation behind taking the opportunity.
Saunders, who also taught courses in business and computer science at Howard University, says that IN3 is not yet affiliated with Howard’s campus, but it is something that’s in the works, “We are working with Howard to figure out ways to support the students,” Saunders said.
Saunders also says that he is trying to create a space where students from Howard and people in the community can come in and work together to not only enhance the experiences of Howard students, but also the experiences of those in the community.
“What we want to do is to be the connective tissue between the larger tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem here in D.C. and Howard University,” Saunders added.